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Photo by Colt Fetters
This marks my 100th post to the Touring Gear and Tips column, and after looking back through some previous posts, I thought I would take this opportunity to run down some of the touring gear that I have been most excited about. What follows are my personal favorites, and should not be taken as a definitive 'best of' list, since I don't necessarily believe that there is a true best of show in bicycle touring.
While most touring specific shoes have tennis shoe-like soles with plenty of traction and grip, we still see a lot of touring cyclists who prefer road shoes for various reasons. Road specific shoes often have an exposed cleat, in addition to a hard molded plastic or composite sole. This can make walking on hard floors a little difficult and noisy as well.
Your pack list is dialed in, the route is carefully plotted out on the map, and your bike is tuned up and ready to roll. This all sounds pretty good, and if you see a lot of photos that people post from their own tours, you might think that experience and a solid plan leads to pure enjoyment from start to finish.
Being a bookworm is not the most convenient of bike touring habits.
Why $1500? It seemed like a good round number that included a lot of cool bikes with great builds at a reasonable price. Today's post is sort of an addendum to that list; it includes some bikes that I missed last year, plus some new bikes for the 2011 season.
It's that time of year at Adventure Cycling when we're starting to get a lot of phone calls from cyclists wondering how many miles they should ride per day on their upcoming tour. If I were asked this by someone I knew well, and had ridden with on many occasions, I would feel pretty comfortable throwing out a ballpark figure. Talking to someone I have not even met, on the other hand, makes guessing a number not just incredibly difficult, but irresponsible on my part.
I know that the current trend is toward low-sodium diets, but I tend to have pretty low sodium to start with, and as it warms up and I spend even more time in the sun I really have to work hard to maintain my salt intake. Folks who spend a lot of time sweating need a lot more sodium (and a lot more fluid!) than sedentary individuals, and there are lots of ways to get it.
Keeping the mud and dirt off your bike isn't mandatory, but it's not a bad idea, for a variety of reasons. For one, it can make it easier to identify frame defects and damaged components, in addition to making it easier to work on your bike in general. It can also help extend the life of some parts, such as your chain, cassette, cables, and housing.
When planning out a bike trip, it is really easy to focus solely on the route from point A to point B. However, once you hit the road, you may find a town that you are crazy about and want to hang out in for a few days, or perhaps you will hear from locals about some incredible sights that are 10 miles perpendicular to your direction of travel.
It is really hard to beat a solid set of fenders that are bolted to your frame and fork, I won't argue that. However, there are a few clip-on fenders that offer great coverage, durability, and versatility. Clip-on fenders are a good option (maybe your only option) if you don't have fender eyelets, or perhaps you have multiple bikes and want to swap a set of fenders from one to the other quickly.
Recipe for Mother's No Bake Energy Bars.
With spring right around the corner, and the daylight hours increasing, it's an exciting time for cyclists looking forward to putting in some miles. However, the early spring season can be a challenging time to ride as far as flat tires are concerned, especially in the northern climes. There's a lot of gravel, glass, and miscellaneous debris on the road that gets covered up by snow through the winter, only to rear its ugly head as the snow melts. On top of this, the conditions are often damp, and road debris tends to stick to bicycle tires better when the tires are wet. So, making sure you have a good barrier between the surface of your tire and the air inside your tube can be very important.
I get emails all the time from people who ask: “I'm planning to go on a bicycle tour sometime soon. What kind of touring bicycle should I get?”
Looking back (and a little bit forward) on a season of winter riding, the Canari Static Jammer gloves were a big surprise for me. Just looking at them, they don't appear to be padded up enough to handle the cold winter bite, but the windproof/waterproof fabric does a great job of keeping your hands protected, while allowing some breathing room to keep too much moisture from building up inside.
About a month ago, I wrote up some tips for purchasing a used bike. What I neglected to include in that post was where you could go to find a used bike. In the past, I have found places such as Ebay, Craigslist, and local listservs for bicycle clubs useful. These are all good places to find a used bike; however, in some cases, your local bike shop can also be a good starting point.
Even when you're out on tour, you may find yourself riding around town in the dark. Maybe you're heading to the store to stock up on food, or checking out the nightlife away from camp. In such cases, it's a good idea to make sure you are visible to traffic. While headlights and tail lights are great for this, you also want to be seen from the side, especially at intersections. Spoke reflectors are certainly helpful, but they aren't a lot of fun. If you really want to make your presence known, the Bike Glow is worth taking a look at.
The derailleurs on a bike may seem pretty complex, but once you start fiddling around with them you'll find them surprisingly easy to troubleshoot. When you're on the road, and away from a bike shop, knowing how to tweak your derailleur can save you a lot of skipping gears and frustration.
For years, I've noticed people using their water bottle cages to carry tools and other miscellaneous gear on day rides, as well as on tours. The most common carrying technique I have seen is cutting off the narrow neck near the top of an old water bottle, cramming gear into it, and stuffing the top with something like an old sock to keep items from rattling out. This gets the job done, but it isn't super elegant and it knocks your water carrying capacity down by one bottle.
The other day I received a great question over the phone from a cyclist who said she could really take on just one bike. She wants it primarily for fast-paced road riding, but she'd also like it to be worthy of loaded touring. Having been in a similar situation in the past myself, I suggested the route I chose: a cyclocross bike.
We get a lot of questions about planning through our Travelling Two bike touring blog, and every time someone emails us to ask which panniers are best or how many T-shirts they need to pack, I think of Lee.
While buying a new bike can be fun and exciting, it can also be very intimidating when you start looking at $900 price tags before you even start adding in racks, panniers, and other touring equipment. This isn't always in an individual's desirable price range, especially when they are just trying to get their feet in the door.
When planning out a bicycle tour, the main focus is often on the route, and a well thought out pack list. One thing that easily escapes my mind when planning ahead is extracurricular activities. You may have a long afternoon ahead of you by the time you have camp setup at the end of your ride, and if you have some energy left, it can be fun to take on a secondary adventure/activity. Here are a few ideas:
If you're still looking for a good New Year's resolution, how about working on your upper body and core fitness? As far as cycling goes, this kind of strength isn't something that is super intuitive, but if you don't pay a little attention to it, you will feel it once you start putting in longer rides as the weather warms up.
This is a busy time of the year for airlines, and if you are flying with your bike, get ready for some stiff baggage fees. But, as long as you're paying to get your bike on a plane, you may as well make the most of it.
The winter season is a great time to get on top of some bike maintenance projects, or to learn some basic mechanical skills to help save time and money spent at the shop. Regardless of your skill level, the book Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance is a great manual to have on hand.